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Procedure : 2007/2024(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0295/2007

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PV 04/09/2007 - 3
CRE 04/09/2007 - 3

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PV 04/09/2007 - 7.8
CRE 04/09/2007 - 7.8
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Tuesday, 4 September 2007 - Strasbourg Final edition
The Single Market Review

European Parliament resolution of 4 September 2007 on the Single Market Review: tackling barriers and inefficiencies through better implementation and enforcement (2007/2024(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled 'A Single Market for citizens – Interim report to the 2007 Spring European Council' (COM(2007)0060),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council entitled 'A citizen's agenda – delivering results for Europe' (COM(2006)0211),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Spring European Council entitled 'Implementing the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs – "A year of delivery'' (COM(2006)0816),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled 'Annual Policy Strategy for 2008' (COM(2007)0065),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee entitled 'The Internal Market for Goods: a cornerstone of Europe's competitiveness' (COM(2007)0035),

–   having regard to the Green Paper on the Review of the Consumer Acquis presented by the Commission (COM(2006)0744),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled 'A strategic review of Better Regulation in the European Union' (COM(2006)0689),

–   having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council, held on 8 and 9 March 2007,

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2007 on social services of general interest in the European Union(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 May 2007 on the impact and consequences of the exclusion of health services from the Directive on services in the internal market(2) ,

–   having regard to the final declaration of the 4th European Conference on Craft and Small Enterprises, held in Stuttgart on 16 and 17 April 2007,

–   having regard to the Berlin declaration of 25 March 2007,

–   having regard to the Commission's Economic Paper No 271 'Steps towards a deeper economic integration: the Internal Market in the 21st century – A contribution to the Single Market Review',

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A6-0295/2007),

A.   whereas the Single Market has been a major achievement without precedent in the European context, delivering wider choice and lower prices to consumers, creating a competitive and dynamic environment for business and enabling ideas and experience to be exchanged among European cultures,

B.   whereas the Lisbon Strategy has highlighted the objective of social cohesion and given a greater role to the social dimension in the EU's sector-specific policies,

C.   whereas the Single Market and its four building blocks – the free movement of goods, services, people and capital – have been a decisive step forward in European integration,

D.   whereas the establishment of the Single Market in 1992 was based on the following three principles:

   competition: enabling the Single Market to be completed on the basis of social market economy rules, backed up by a right to benefit from competition, which is an essential democratic right designed to curb the abuse of economic power and not just to limit the powers of public authorities;
   cooperation: enabling cross-border and EU-wide ambitions set out in the Treaties and in Community programmes to be realised; and
   solidarity: uniting the different parties and pursuing the objectives of social, economic and territorial cohesion,

E.   whereas the Lisbon Strategy will lead to structural reforms in Member States and to the opening of markets, but will also increase the need for rules on fair competition,

F.   whereas the adoption of Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market(3) has made possible significant progress towards completing the Single Market in services,

G.   whereas the euro has brought transparency, efficiency and ease of access to the Single Market,

H.   whereas there are still overt and hidden protectionist attitudes in Member States' administrations,

I.   whereas there are still many barriers to the implementation of the four fundamental freedoms; whereas it is essential to improve the functioning of the Single Market and to concentrate efforts on the achievement of a barrier-free Single Market,

J.   whereas there is a need to work towards implementing a dynamic, global and flexible approach to the Single Market in order to gain the support of fellow-citizens,

K.   whereas there is a need to complete the opening of network industries, such as transport, telecommunications, postal services and energy transmission, which are, by definition, intended to connect businesses and private individuals and whereas, in terms of their development and opening, they are therefore the best means of completing the Single Market as part of a responsible market economy facilitated by effective regulatory mechanisms,

L.   whereas the European Union has in recent years adopted various legislative measures aimed at enhancing the Single Market in financial services, such as bank services, asset management, insurance, pension funds, and accounting, which have brought benefits both for business and consumers, and made the EU a global leader, trend-setter and standard-setter in the financial services industry,

M.   whereas although good progress has been made towards completing the Single Market in wholesale financial services, there is as yet very little evidence of this translating to any significant extent at the retail level, often due to the cultural and traditional preferences of citizens, but also due to legal and tax barriers,

N.   whereas the Commission has an important responsibility in enforcing compliance with the competition rules in order to ensure a fair and level playing field for EU enterprises and the full achievement of Single Market benefits for EU consumers,

O.   whereas, although the Member States will maintain their exclusive rights in tax issues, the Commission can still play a useful role in certain aspects of tax policy, which will further the achievement of a real Single Market,

P.   whereas there is a need to reduce the administrative burden on businesses, in particular on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),

Q.   whereas the EU suffers from a lack of innovation in comparison to its main competitors,

R.   whereas the Single Market is the most efficient tool to address the challenges of globalisation by enabling the European economy to be more competitive and dynamic,

S.   whereas the Commission must take full account of EU enlargement when implementing its policies, in particular the Internal Market policy, and of their impact in the new Member States, as well as of new developments such as social and technological developments,

T.   whereas enlargement, which has increased the opportunities to be gained from the Single Market, has also presented a challenge to its proper functioning by increasing heterogeneity among its members; whereas heterogeneity in the field of corporate taxation constitutes a possible source of tension between Member States,

1.  Welcomes the Commission's active role and forward-looking vision for the Single Market and its work on the review of the Single Market, and highlights the importance of including all stakeholders in that process;

2.  Wishes the Single Market review to be the occasion for demonstrating to the European public all the benefits that they can gain from the completion of the Single Market; calls on the Commission and the Member States to close the gap between the potential and the reality of the Single Market;

3.  Stresses the importance of ensuring that all members of the public benefit from the Single Market; takes the view that some vulnerable groups do not have full access to it, and points out that Declaration No 22 annexed to the final act of the Treaty of Amsterdam provides that the institutions of the Community shall take account of the needs of persons with a disability in drawing up measures under Article 95 of the Treaty;

4.  Hopes that working relations with national parliaments may be strengthened so that the issues and benefits of the Single Market become clearer to the representatives of citizens in the Member States; highlights in this regard the constructive dialogue between the national parliaments and the European Parliament through annual meetings on the Lisbon Agenda as a good example of cooperation which could be built upon in the future;

5.  Stresses the overriding need to put into effect the content of the final declaration of the 4th European Conference on Craft and Small Enterprises, given the essential role of such businesses in the European economy; calls, therefore, for these conclusions to be taken into account in the framing and implementation of Community policies, in particular in the context of the Single Market review and the review of policy on SMEs;

6.  Regrets that Member States do not feel enough ownership of the Single Market on a practical level;

7.  Recognises that in a Single Market delivering quality of life, environmental and consumer protection concerns need to be taken into account;

Increasing stakeholders' confidence in the Single Market

8.  Holds the view that new policy initiatives should be more driven by an analysis of the impact they have on various markets, economic sectors and the environment, and in the social sphere;

9.  Reiterates – given that social and territorial cohesion is one of the essential components of the Single Market – the importance of boosting citizens' confidence by promoting social and environmental objectives common to the Member States, such as quality jobs, equality of opportunity, and protection of health and the environment, while respecting European cultural diversity; calls on the Commission to ensure that the EU performs its protective function in these areas and to avoid regulatory competition between the Member States;

10.  Stresses that social cohesion, combined with consistent consumer protection, can lead to an improved perception on the part of the public of the benefits of the Single Market;

11.  Stresses the importance of encouraging the free movement of workers within the Single Market; points out that the mobility of workers inside the Union's borders is a major element promoting the competitiveness of businesses, and that it stimulates innovation by means of exchanges of expertise and increased competition;

12.  Stresses that a good Single Market policy is fundamental to the stimulation of innovation through increased competition and to a business-friendly environment, which is of particular importance to SMEs; calls on the Commission and the Member States, in particular, to put in place practical measures designed to support the innovative potential of craft and small enterprises, and in particular tools for financing innovation which are adapted to the specific characteristics of such enterprises;

13.  Urges the Commission to adopt a global strategy concerning intellectual property rights and to strengthen the protection of those rights as a tool to support innovation, promote Europe's industrial capacity and encourage its growth; highlights the importance of establishing a Community Patent and a high-quality, cost-effective, innovation-friendly judicial system for European patents which respects the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Communities; notes the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on enhancing the patent system in Europe (COM(2007)0165);

14.  Considers that effective competition policy will help build consumer confidence, ensuring citizens benefit from greater choice, lower prices and higher quality; calls on the Commission to explore how better to integrate competition policy measures into wider Single Market policy;

15.  Stresses the importance of combating fraud and piracy within the Single Market;

16.  Holds the view that tackling climate change and ensuring sustainable development are of paramount importance, and can be achieved only with a balanced energy mix, and that a Single Market policy promoting sustainable and competitive energy is vital to those ends; welcomes the abovementioned Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council; regrets, however, that insufficient emphasis was placed on the potential contribution of nuclear power;

17.  In accordance with section III, paragraph 19, point (i) of the IGC 2007 Mandate (4) relating to a Protocol on services of general interest which will be annexed to the Treaties, invites the Commission to take initiatives to overcome the legal uncertainty regarding the status of services of general interest, notably the state aid and public procurement rules; welcomes the initiatives of the Commission which aim to clarify ambiguities in the fields of health services and social services of general interest in the Single Market; considers that strong and modern services of general interest are necessary in order to achieve public interest objectives, such as social and territorial cohesion, environmental protection and cultural diversity;

18.  Stresses the need to make consumer law more effective for the Single Market; welcomes, therefore, the Commission's Green Paper on the review of the consumer acquis; notes that the current minimum harmonisation clauses in the eight directives covered by the review are a source of legal uncertainty for businesses and consumers; considers, therefore, without wishing to predict the result of the consultation, that the mixed option approach, with a horizontal instrument, is the most appropriate with a view to strengthening consumer confidence;

19.  Points out that only 6% of consumers make use of cross-border electronic commerce in goods; stresses, therefore, the importance of increasing consumer confidence in cross-border purchases by putting an end to the fragmentation of the Single Market in the digital environment; to that end, encourages the Commission to provide support for an appropriate framework for the development of electronic commerce, to create a more favourable economic environment therefor, to improve the quality of legislation and to strengthen consumer rights and the situation of SMEs in the marketplace;

20.  Stresses that neither consumers nor service providers are always able to determine which legal regime is applicable to each aspect of their activities; calls, therefore, on the Commission to propose a clarification of the interaction between private international law instruments and Single Market instruments with a view to leaving no doubt as to when home or host country legislation or regulation applies and to leave no gaps in the liability regime applicable to service providers;

21.  Calls for the continuing development of design standards, with the aim of further improving accessibility for disabled people, the elderly and children; stresses the importance that this process has had in areas such as urban buses, lifts, electrical appliances and information and communications technologies (ICT) in extending the benefits of the Single Market to vulnerable citizens and in creating greater certainty and preventing the creation of barriers to industry in the Union;

22.  Stresses that public contracts must be awarded in a fair and transparent manner, observing public procurement rules, and that they may also help promote innovation and technological development and help respond to environmental and social concerns, including accessibility for disabled people; calls on the Commission to encourage Member States to improve access for SMEs to public procurement contracts and to apply pre-commercial procurement to improve the innovative capacity of the Single Market;

23.  Holds the view that the free movement of goods is vital for the efficiency of the Single Market; points out that 25% of the goods manufactured in the European Union are still not subject to harmonisation measures; welcomes, therefore, the Commission initiative to improve the functioning of the Single Market in that field; calls on the Member States to make full use of mutual recognition to ensure the exercise of this fundamental freedom in the interests of consumers and businesses;

24.  Stresses the importance of removing obstacles to the creation of a single payments area, as well as further liberalisation of postal markets, while ensuring the financing of an efficient universal service;

25.  Takes the view that further financial integration in the European Union is necessary to contribute to sustainable growth, notably via lower transaction costs, wider opportunities for risk sharing and a more efficient allocation of resources;

26.  Believes that the present VAT and excise duty systems are a barrier to the completion of the Single Market, in particular in relation to cross-border trade; calls on the Commission to investigate tax problems related to personal mail order and Internet shopping, and to come forward with proposals for facilitating EU citizens' full benefit from the free movement of goods;

27.  Calls for particular attention to be paid to the Single Market concerns of SMEs, in particular through improvements to the cost and speed of start-up processes, the availability of risk capital/venture capital, the cost and speed of payment services and the mobility of people, goods and services; calls on the Commission to ensure that risk capital from the European Investment Fund usefully reaches SMEs and innovative enterprises;

28.  Holds the view that informal networks, such as Solvit and the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), are an important complement to the formal and legal tools available to citizens and enterprises; welcomes the initiative to establish the Internal Market information network (IMI - Internal Market Information system); calls on the Commission to increase its staff resources and improve its information strategy so that the public and businesses know that these networks exist and so as to make them fully effective;

29.  Believes that increased consultation and use of appropriate mechanisms to achieve a faster resolution of disputes need to be investigated; calls, therefore, for an effective fast-track arbitration redress mechanism to be established at EU level to promote the prompt resolution of disputes concerning Single Market rules;

Reducing administrative burdens

30.  Welcomes the Commission's initiatives to reduce the administrative burdens for businesses and urges that further efforts of this kind be made to improve access to the Single Market without reducing the necessary protection for citizens, consumers and employees;

31.  Stresses that mutual recognition is an important aspect of the Single Market which does not prevent the approximation of legislation where appropriate;

32.  Stresses, however, that the Single Market of the 21st century must operate within a set of necessary and proportionate rules; believes that greater harmonisation may be necessary in certain areas, in particular in retail financial services (including means of payment) and in the functioning of the tax system; welcomes the Commission Green Paper on Retail Financial Services in the Single Market (COM(2007)0226) and, while recognising the local nature of retail financial services, urges the Commission to promote the steps already taken and being taken to create the conditions for a Single Market in which consumers and suppliers can choose to participate; is of the opinion that to this end greater consumer testing of possible initiatives should always be undertaken; urges the Commission to push ahead with its proposals concerning a common consolidated corporate tax base;

33.  Emphasises that 'better' is not necessarily 'less' regulation; urges the Commission to consider new initiatives in order to improve the functioning and integration of the Single Market and to consolidate and simplify legislation;

34.  Considers that the Commission's consultation procedures must be more transparent and targeted in order to encourage all stakeholders, and in particular SMEs, to participate;

35.  Believes that boosting competition through regulatory reform is the stimulus that Europe needs to improve productivity; reiterates that Parliament's rights in the context of regulatory reform should be fully respected;

36.  Holds the view that Commission impact studies need to be more consistent and take account of all stakeholder views; welcomes, therefore, the establishment of the Commission's impact assessment board and asks the Commission for the board's opinions to be made public; calls for more impact assessments to be carried out by the European Parliament in support of its proposals;

37.  Calls on the Commission to incorporate an 'Internal Market Test' into the better regulation mechanisms, as advocated by Parliament, to ensure that regulators always take into account the implications of their actions on the four freedoms of the Single Market, alongside the other aspects that they are required to consider, notably sustainability and employment;

38.  Points out that ex-post evaluation of legislation should also be undertaken to ensure that rules are working as intended and to highlight any unforeseen negative effects;

39.  Shares the Commission's view that co-regulation and self-regulation can be tools which may complement legislative initiatives in some areas, while respecting the legislator's prerogatives; also stresses the effectiveness of closer cooperation in some areas, making it possible to move towards harmonisation on a voluntary basis;

40.  Is of the opinion that inadequate transposition is one of the major barriers to the completion of the Single Market and that Member States are responsible for improving transposition and implementation of EU legislation; welcomes the improvement in national transposition and the aim of the above mentioned Brussels European Council gradually to reduce the target transposition deficit to 1%; calls on Member States to avoid the pitfall of national over-regulation ('gold-plating');

41.  Stresses the importance of strengthening and improving administrative cooperation between the authorities in the Member States which are responsible for the Single Market;

The international dimension

42.  Regrets the fact that some Member States are taking measures to protect their national markets; emphasises the importance of achieving a level playing field across the Single Market; stresses that a well-functioning Single Market constitutes a competitive advantage for Europe in the face of globalisation;

43.  Calls on the Commission, when framing internal policies, systematically to evaluate and take into consideration similar policies implemented by the EU's major partners, such as the USA, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Japan and so on, with a view to improving the European Union's competitiveness and removing barriers to global trade;

44.  Stresses that policy initiatives to increase competitiveness must not lower European standards; recalls the importance of developing a constructive and balanced dialogue with external partners in order to influence the development of international standards;

45.  Takes note of the Commission's initiative to engage in a comprehensive review of the Union's trade defence instruments; stresses that effective trade defence instruments are vital to competitiveness, growth and jobs in a fast-changing world economy; recalls that the European Union should maintain the leadership it has shown in the past in improving and strengthening discipline at WTO level;

46.  Holds the view that the European Union will only be able to thrive in a global economy if it matches and even improves on the innovative capacity of its trading partners; insists on the fact that the European Union needs specific measures to make the Single Market more innovative; furthermore, calls on the institutions of the European Union to position the Union as an entity with regard to future trends in the global economy so as to ensure both the efficiency of the Union's trade defence and its sustainable competitiveness; is of the opinion that the Transatlantic Internal Market could be an appropriate instrument to these ends;

o   o

47.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0070.
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0201.
(3) OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 36.
(4) Annex I to Presidency Conclusions, Brussels European Council of 21 and 22 June 2007.

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